Archive for the ‘kasey’ Category

Apr18

Kasey – Week 4

Huge garden!

Despite my reservations when I first embarked on this gardening adventure, I have done it! I have beautiful healthy plants that are actually starting to yield fruit. I am already starting to enjoy the benefits of my fresh herbs. My peppers are sprouting up all over the place. I’ve already harvested one and should many more by next week. My tomatoes are full of flowers and a few small fruits.

 

Tiny tomato.

Not that there haven’t been setbacks. My original pot of strawberries never took root and died suddenly. I have a new plant now, but it won’t be bearing fruit any time soon. There were also some additions. In anticipation of having too many peppers, I planted some tomatillo seeds. I hope to have strong plants by mid-summer.

The routine of watering and taking care of the plants has become a relaxing retreat from the stresses of the day. I like to come home after work, take off my shoes, and check the plants. It is relaxing to water and care for them. It is as much about having an excuse to be productive outside as anything else.

Of course, I will be even more excited when I get my first batch of salsa. I was thinking of pairing it with a strawberry mojito. I have so much mint now that I have to think of something to do with it all! Here is a recipe I can’t wait to try:

Strawberry Mojito Cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces of simple syrup
  • about 3 fresh strawberries
  • about 4-5 fresh spearmint sprigs (chopped if you prefer smaller mint pieces in your cocktail)
  • soda water
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 ounces of light rum

1. In a chilled glass (about 10-12 ounces), muddle the simple syrup, strawberries and mint leaves together with the back of a spoon or muddler. Crush the strawberries and mint leaves well.

2. Squeeze the juice from the lime into the glass, add the rum and stir well. Fill glass with ice and top off with soda water.

3. Garnish with mint sprigs or strawberry slices. Makes 1 drink.

Source.

I’ll keep watering and fertilizing like crazy if I can drink a few of these on my porch this summer.

 

My first pepper!

Apr11

Kasey – Week 3

I’ve become one of them. Yes, it’s true: I’ve become a gardener.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Constantly calculating the amount of rain you’ve gotten in the last week.
  • Researching bugs after seeing them in your yard.

    Which did I need to water?

  • Lingering in the outdoor section of the home improvement store.
  • Buying a knee pad.
  • Talking to everyone you know that shows passing interest about your garden.

 

Yes, it’s true. I’ve been watching and watering and fertilizing and researching. Have I made missteps? Definitely. My mint pots do not have

drainage, so it is hard to know how much water them sometimes. (I have heard that too much moisture can often lead to rot and diseases in the roots.) One of them was suffering from my inexperience. However, there is one thing I have learned about

plants: they are resilient! It perked up almost immediately after I gave it some H2O.

In general, I try to stick to the following guidelines:

 

Watering

This is a task that I try to squeeze in even when I am at my busiest. Afterall, it is essential to the process. We have had a hot April, so I have been watering every other day and checking my potted plants often for any dryness. The soil in containers and pots tends to lose moisture much faster than if it was in the ground because it has much less insulation.

I watered in the late evening (around 7pm) because as any gardener  will tell you, plants should not be given water in the heat of the day. It will evaporate, but more importantly, the water can form a lens that will scorch the foliage in the sun.

 

Herbs growing.

Fertilizer

I was unsure on what was the best for my large variety of plants, so I picked up the first organic food fertilizer I saw. It was a nice (and very smelly) granular mix that was to be spread in the soil surrounding the plants about once a week. My plants are healthy and strong, so it must have been good enough to do the trick.

I have heard often that liquid fertilizer is a good idea for tomatoes since it provides immediate nutrients straight to the fruit. This is something I am eager to try later when I run out of my current mix.

 

 

Insects

Bug damage.

I had some bugs having a buffet on my mint and pepper leaves. I found some aphids that seemed to be the culprit, but I could tell for sure that beetles weren’t praying on the peppers at night. After losing a few leaves, I decided to do something about the free food I was providing to hungry bugs.

My plan was to avoid using chemicals if at all possible, so I did some research and found instructions for a simple repellent that I could make without taking a special trip to the store. Using a few drops of natural dish soap, a sprayer, and some water, I coated my leaves with a heavily diluted solution of soap. This seems to keep them at bay. It must be reapplied if the plants get wet, so I usually use a soaker in the planter to water. Then, I reply the solution after rain. I try whenever possible to avoid spraying the fruit. I researched to make sure the soap wold be harmless, but I don’t want anything extra in my salad.

I hear that Dr. Bronner’s mint soaps are especially good for this task and might be picking some up next time I am in Whole Foods.

 

Pruning

I don’t! I worked so hard on getting these things to grow, I hate to remove anything. I am aware that proper pruning makes for stronger fruit, but I’m not sure where to start.

Looking good.

That’s it. Things are going very well! The plants are much bigger now than I imagined they would be.

Apr04

Kasey – Week 2

My dog watches me plant the first tomato plant.

With the planters prepared, it is time to plant. It is daunting and exciting all at once to decide on what I want to grow. Since I have limited space available and I am a beginner, I decided to go with the basics. I know that tomatoes are the “go to” crop of the backyard gardener, so I bought some heirloom tomato seedlings from my local nursery. My plan was to pick other crops to complement all of the tomatoes. Caprese is by far my favorite use of a tomato, so I decided to plant a small pot of basil. Fortunately, I found an herb kit that offered parsley and cilantro. The addition of cilantro and the protests of my husband led me to another use—salsa! I went on a pepper-buying spree and bought habanero, jalepeño, serrano, and cayenne. I heard that they do well in hot weather, so I hoped that the climate here in Austin would yield a bushel of spicy deliciousness. Of course, these choices w ere la rgely based on what was in season in late March. Finding this information was as simple as using the Internet and talking to the people at my nursery.

Getting dirty.

(A note here about  getting involved with gardening, it’s addictive. Not even a week after I decided on what I would be growing, I found myself with mint, strawberries, and tons of flowers.)

Herbs just waiting to sprout.

After purchasing my plants, I was ready to plant! The soil had been prepared and fertilized, so I simply followed the directions on the tags on how to plant. Since I was working with containers, there was not as much space between plants as might have been recommended, but I elected

in the favor of quantity. I wasn’t sure I could keep my plants alive, so I thought it might be nice to raise the stakes that they would survive.

Two boxes were devoted to plants, and one to peppers of all types. Additionally, I had a pot with seeds for herbs, a pot with straw

berry roots, and two pots with mint plants. I learned (from nearly everyone I talked to) that tomato plants should be mostly buried when they are transplanted into their final plot. I dug a deep hole and stuffed my little plants down into it. The top few branches were just peaking out from the soil.

The peppers just needed their roots to be under the surface, so they were very easy to plant. By the time I was done, it looked like I had a real garden on my hands.

Finished garden with peppers on the right.

 

 

Mar28

Kasey – Week 1


Fresh compost!

I decided to plant a garden in the yard of my small house in Brentwood in Austin, Texas. I wanted to have a relaxing hobby that afforded me time outside with the sweet reward of fresh organic vegetables. Which is great, but I don’t actually own a yard. I rent one, so I can’t dig up a big square foot garden. This is a problem that, while seemingly insurmountable to a novice like me, actually turned out to have little effect of my quest to start an urban crop.

Let me just say, before we start this journey, that I have never in my life kept a flower alive for more than a week, let alone grown anything from a seed. I have  no expertise, no guidance (at the time of writing), and no common sense. I’ve embarked on this adventure as a learner and will undoubtedly face trial and error.

Not pictured: Floppy hat

That being said, I started researching and found that I could grow a number of things in Austin this time of year in containers and plants that would be relatively low impact on my landlord’s yard. I want to grow some larger vegetable crops, so I started with 3 large plastic containers. I paid special attention to the material to make sure they were safe to grow food in. I also have various pots for my patio for smaller things. In addition to containers, I stocked up on all of the tools of the trade. Sadly, there was no budget for a floppy gardening hat. Maybe next season.

When I got my containers, I had to think about the best placement—both for sunlight and avoiding blocking the spaces where my dog likes to chase balls and roll in the grass. I picked a relatively sunny spot on the right side of the house close to the fence. It gets full sun almost all day. From what I could tell, this would be suitable for just about anything I planted.

 

The next task was to fill everything with compost. I read that there are many options for soil while planting in containers like these, but I took the advice of the staff of my local nursery and chose a nice local, organic compost. Once my containers were prepped, my thoughts turned to food…

 

adventures in urban gardening